The Office Holiday Party Will Look Different This Year

    The office holiday party is a well-entrenched ritual that shows appreciation to employees. But this year’s pandemic took a huge toll on companies large and small, and it may be tempting for those barely hanging on to cut out this holiday tradition in 2020 — not to mention the need to curtail in-person gatherings for safety reasons.

    But if ever there was a time when employers and employees could use a little levity in their lives, this is the year. While the cocktail and dinner party are out, creative ways to engage staff in some remote fun are called for.

    It’s time to use your imagination and think of ways to connect with and pay tribute to those who play an integral role in your company. Make sure it includes an element of fun and memory-making so that it doesn’t become another onerous office obligation.

    Consider these ideas for spreading some holiday cheer among your staff:

    1. Arrange a Secret Santa I.O.U.

    Let’s face it, 2020 is kind of a bad year, due to pandemic concerns. But you can still show gift-giving flair. Why not pick numbers to determine who everyone’s Secret Santa is, and then have staffers construct Secret Santa I.O.U.s — promises of coffee and ice-cream outings after everyone is vaccinated. “This email entitles the bearer to one free cappuccino at Starbucks by 12/25/2021.” Have fun and be creative.

    2. Orchestratea Zoom sing-along

    Holiday carols put everyone in the mood, even during this tough year. Blast some of the peppy, secular holiday songs, such as “All I Want for Christmas is You;” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Have everyone raise a glass of eggnog and sing along if they want. Don’t worry about singing “together” or in key as much as just having fun.

    3.Champion the spirit of giving

    Identify a local charity in the area and ask everyone on staff to spend a few minutes before the holidays getting the word out about the charity’s mission on social media.

    4. Drum up some creative competition

    Invite each department or team to upload a toast, a roast, or a spoof on a classic holiday song, then let the full team vote for their favorite. To spur on participation, offer a worthwhile prize to the winning team.

    5. Throw a virtual bash

    Have a holiday-themed Zoom meeting that includes an ugly sweater contest, show-and-tell of best or worst gifts received, and a trivia contest featuring questions related to movies or music of the season. Ask everyone to choose a background that has special meaning to them — where they wish they could be, where they honeymooned, where they grew up — and then have everyone share the story behind their choice. Take a team photo (in gallery view on Zoom) to memorialize the 2020 pandemic holiday party and send it out as a party favor.

    6. Share a holiday treat

    Send staff a basket of assorted treats and a bottle of wine through a delivery service. Then, enjoy the goodies together during a virtual holiday party. Because food is a big part of the holidays, ask team members to describe their favorite seasonal fare — and to share the recipe if they’re willing.

    7. Fill a communal gift bag

    Reach out to a local nonprofit organization to identify a child in need. Once you know the age, gender and needs of the child, invite staff to contribute to filling a large holiday gift bag. Ask employees to send or drop off their items to the staff person responsible for delivering the gift bag. Keep a running list of items donated so that there isn’t overlap, and try to provide both essential and fun offerings.

    Even if it has to be virtually this year, celebrate with the people who represent your office family. Spread some cheer and keep the spirit of the season alive.

    Guest Post by Vicky Oliver

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    Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-best-selling author of five books, including Live Like a Millionaire (Without Having to Be One) (Skyhorse, 2015) and Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers and Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks, 2008). She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media source, having made over 901 appearances in broadcast, print, and online outlets. For more information, visit


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